While it’s a great practice to have a plan when you go to the grocery store, sometimes you wind up at the market without having had a chance to do any meal planning or make a list. Don’t let this stop you! An unprepared stop at the store on your way home from work can be just as productive if you know what to buy to get you through the week. Assuming you have a well-stocked pantry and freezer at home, picking up these fresh items at the start of the week should provide you with a variety of simple meals.
Shallots/Leeks/Onions: Aromatics like onions add great flavor to any dish. Shallots and leeks are simply milder versions of onions and can be prepared in a similar fashion.
Garlic: 1 bulb of garlic can last quite a while and add great flavor to vinaigrettes, marinades, sauces, and soups.
Parsley, cilantro, or your Favorite Herb: Herbs have intense flavor, so you don’t need to use much in a dish to impart a serious gourmet touch. Purchase one herb at a time so you don’t let any go to waste and sprinkle it in salads, soups, marinades, sauces, and place a little on top of a finished dish for extra brightness.
Lemon: A squeeze of lemon wedge can go a long way in a glass of water, a chicken marinade, salad dressing, or steamed spinach. Like garlic, adding a bit of lemon to a simple meal will make it taste quite special.
2-3 Seasonal Vegetables: If you don’t have time to meal plan, choose vegetables that taste good on their own. You can always pair some simple green beans or roasted broccoli with a steak or chicken breast. Consider buying a crunchy vegetable like cauliflower or celery to enjoy with your snack, but don’t overbuy because vegetables are highly perishable.
Salad Greens & Leafy Greens: Dark, leafy greens are the staple of a healthy diet so be sure to stock up on these each week. It’s easy to make a quick salad out of lettuce, chopped vegetables and fruit, nuts or seeds, and a little oil and vinegar. Darker greens like spinach, kale, or chard are delicious in soups, scrambles, and simply steamed.
Seasonal Fruit: Fruit can be a sweet treat in a well-nourished diet so choose one or two seasonal fruits that tempt your tastebuds. Enjoy your fruit as part of a snack, mixed into a salad, or as dessert.
2-3 Proteins: Depending on the amount of people in your family and your lifestyle, you may need to adjust this quantity to suit your needs. In most cases, 2-3 proteins like chicken breast, steak, ground meat or fish will give you enough variety without overwhelming your fridge or going to waste. Be sure to purchase enough to utilize for multiple dishes and leftovers.
Eggs & Dairy: Depending on your needs, don’t forget to pick up some eggs and/or dairy to round out your meals.
Even if you’re dedicated meal planner, we suggest going to the store without a list just to try it! Without specific items in mind, you can feel free to choose items that are on sale or look especially fresh that day. Once you get home, you’ll be forced to use your creativity in the kitchen and try some new combinations. Let us know how it goes!